Advice for my younger self ~ on BPD, PTSD and life

I have been through a series of ups and down lately (which felt like more downs than ups to me, really) and did a lot of talking with Mom because of it. Now that’s no real news, because we always do a lot of talking . . . but then it kinda felt significant when Mom reminded me of how in the beginning we did nearly no talking of this kind because I’d just scream that she hated me and that I hated her and threaten to do silly things whenever things worth talking about came up. Reminded me that I have come a long way already.

So given my past disinclination to talk about stuff – or listen to people talk about stuff – maybe this post doesn’t make any sense at all, because I probably would have just ignored my older self or told her to fuck off. But even so, here are some things I would tell my younger self if I got the chance:

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

Hang in there. Life seems horrible right now and it will continue to feel that way longer than you deserve, but you are in for real good stuff later. You will meet real good people. Not the kind of ‘good’ you know, but a REAL kind of good. So hang in there and don’t give up hope. The good stuff is worth waiting for, even when it’s an excruciatingly long wait.

Do not take unhealthy pride in your diagnosis of BPD and do not feel like you are less than anyone else because of it either. It’s just a word. I know you feel like there’s nothing good about you, but even when you don’t know it yet, you are more than a single word or any label can ever convey and lots of who you are has nothing to do with messed up relationship patterns. Try to find the parts of you that are healthy and lovable and work on them.

Do not fuck that guy. Seriously. Just don’t do it. No matter who he is. No matter what reason you think you should do it for. Just don’t do it. It’s not going to accomplish a thing. But don’t hate yourself for doing it either. You have poor impulse control, so it’s not you being a failure if you do it anyway. Just try your best not to. That’s all. And when you fail, try again. You’ll manage, eventually.

Don’t go around hating everybody. I know there are lots of people in your life who don’t get what’s up with you, but they aren’t doing it because they’re malicious or indifferent or because they hate you. They don’t even know you. Not properly. And really, I don’t expect you to love or even just to like them. Just don’t go around hating them is all. The person your hatred is going to hurt the most is yourself. And really, you hurt enough as it is. Don’t add to it in this way. Just ignore them and focus on whatever good stuff here is instead, even when there is not much.

It was not about you. All the shit that went wrong while you grew up, it was NOT about you. It was never about you. You were born right into the middle of a fucked up mess, but that mess has nothing to do with you. Your parents were struggling with and failing at their own life and took it out on you because you were there and you couldn’t fight back. But that’s not your fault. Nothing you did made it happen. You could have been any other way and it would still have happened. It was never about you.

Try your best to see the middle. Whatever there is, things have a middle. I know you slide all the way to one side and all the way to the other side all the time like life were a playground seesaw, but that’s because you haven’t learned to hold your balance yet, not because there is no middle. Nearly nothing is as extreme as it looks and feels to you. You’re like a kid on roller skates on a seesaw, whose roller skates go whichever way the seesaw tips all at once and it will be a while until you learn how to put yourself sideways to avoid the instantaneous skidding, but take my word for it that the middle IS there. Always. Try your best to see it, even when you aren’t able to stay there yet.

People are not their actions. Others aren’t and you aren’t either. Yes, you have done awfully disgusting things, but you are not what you have done. It’s not you who IS disgusting. The disgust you feel belongs with the actions, not with you as a person. I wish there was a way to help you feel that.

Sing. You’re good at it.

When that family comes along who want you to live with them, don’t be so hard on them. That woman who you’ll start out calling Samantha, she is going to be your mom one day and she’ll be the best mom you could ever ask for. Cut the yelling a little when you can. And don’t throw those things at her. Just tell her you’re afraid. She’ll understand. She’ll help you make it better. Just don’t throw all those things. Or at least don’t throw the chair. It’s not going to drive her out of your room. All it will do is hit her and you’ll feel awful for years to come that you did that.

The good stuff is yet to come. Like I said in the beginning. Take my word for it. I promise. It will come with lots of hard work and it does also come with truly hard and painful moments, but it’s going to be worth it.

Persevere. Persevere. Persevere. Learn from your mistakes. Persevere. And don’t forget to laugh at the absurd stuff when it happens. You’ll be in for plenty. Laughing at the absurdities is often the best thing you can do. You’ll do better one of the next times around. Persevere.

With love,
the older Lola 

Clearing out my life

I’m on a boost of good energy lately. Ever since mom came around from being sick again, some things have somehow clicked into perspective. It’s hard to explain, really. I’m still a hot mess here and there and my mood still rollercoasters along, but I’m more aware of it now and more able to distance myself from it and still hold on to the awareness that the rest of my feelings still exist, too, even if I can’t feel them in that moment.

I’m also feeling the need to clear out my life at the moment. I feel less and less attached to most of the things that I’ve had for a long time now. Stuff like clothes that I still have from before I got removed from my birth family, or birthday and Christmas cards I’ve gotten from staff during what I call the “institution time” of my life, or little trinkets and knickknacks that I used to be attached to because I associated them with a certain time of my life or a specific event and felt like I’d be losing a part of myself if I didn’t have those things anymore.

Over the last couple of weeks I’m feeling more and more like I don’t need those things anymore, or don’t even want them any longer. So I’ve parted with quite some things and am amazed how little things I actually allowed my mom and dad to get for me. My room is half-empty all of a sudden. But it’s alright. It means there is room for new stuff when something good comes along.

I also feel like I’m more able to look ahead now, rather than back, and more able to focus on the moment as it IS, not as it appears in the light of the past. Which I have found to free quite some energy. I’ve also started to cook. Like, nothing amazing, and mom helps me, but I can now make pizza from scratch, and salads and yummy desserts.

One more thing is that I have started to meditate. Mom said it would do me good to learn how to give my mind a rest and she said she’d join me, so I’m practising meditation. And I’m really crap at it! LOL. My thoughts haven’t really even gotten a basic idea of resting yet! But I am practicing. And even when it’s probably not meditation like someone who’s actually good at it would go it, it’s kind of fun.

Flower of Life

Life is good at the moment. 🙂

Dealing with Attention-Seeking Behavior in Borderline Personality Disorder

One of the things that have sooner or later always led to problems for me is that I am an attention-seeker. A chronic and terrible attention-seeker who can’t stop herself.

I have only vague memories of school, but I recall that before my mother gave me hell for attracting the attention of the teachers and making them wonder what the heck was wrong with me, I used to do anything and everything to receive my teachers’ attention. Draw on my arms, fall on the playground, cry, making mistakes on purpose . . .

Later, after I was removed from home and lived in and out of hospitals and group homes etc. I was just as bad about seeking the attention of staff. Doctors, nurses, social workers, therapists, random people, other residents’ relatives, fix-it people, the janitor, everyone. I have used about every ploy in the world to receive attention. Cute behavior, silly behavior, sucking up to people, provoking them, challenging them, backtalk, flirting, threats, crying, suicide attempts, dramatic behavior, making a scene, hurting myself . . .

Now I am living with my family, with my mom home with me all the time – and I’m still the same. The only difference is that she is now the lucky one who gets to deal with ALL my attention-seeking behavior, and I don’t care so much about random people’s attention any longer. I guess that’s an improvement, of sorts. Even so, I often feel bad about being such an obnoxious attention-seeker and I’m afraid of getting rejected for it. But when I’m afraid, I seek more reassurance and yet more attention. See the problem here?

But I must say I’m really, really happy with the way my mom deals with it, so I thought I’d explore what her reactions consist of a little, splitting her way of dealing with my attention-seeking behavior up into its components.

1. She allows attention-seeking behavior and appreciates its communicative value

Go figure, she actually calls it a “skill”. A very basic and unsophisticated skill, but a skill nonetheless. She says it’s similar to a baby crying when it’s unwell. It’s a way to alert a caretaker to discomfort and unmet needs. She admits that it can be exhausting, but then, so is a relentlessly crying baby, and hey, you can’t reason with a baby, but you can reason with me. At least most of the time. 😉

 2. She understands the necessity to meet my unmet needs

Even when I hate admitting to it and even hate having needs in the first place: I have loads of unmet needs. One of them is being special to someone, receiving someone’s undivided positive attention, being the most important person in the world to someone. It’s what babies need to experience in order to develop in a healthy way. For some time they ideally are the center of their mom’s universe. It’s where their feelings of security and trust come from, which eventually enable them to tolerate not having every need met immediately, because they trust that even if they have to wait a little, they will not be forgotten. I don’t really have that kind of trust in me. My logical thinking tells me mom will probably not forget, but my feelings command I make sure she gets reminded and can’t ignore me. Which ends in attention-seeking behavior.

3. She answers the need behind my attention-seeking behavior

She gives me the attention. I don’t know how often my previous therapist has suggested to her that she should ignore my inappropriate behavior, so I learn that it leads me nowhere, but even so she never stopped answering it. I’ve asked her why she never stopped and her answer was simply to ask back if I would have stopped or rather moved on to behavior she CAN not ignore if she wants to keep me safe. True enough. I tend to move on to dangerous behavior if I don’t get the attention.

4. She helps me become aware of what motivates my attention-seeking behavior and reassures me

While she answers my annoying behavior with attention, she says things like “honey, I see you. It’s alright. I’m here. Do you feel like I’m not taking enough notice of you? What is bothering you? Can you tell me?” I don’t usually admit to feeling like she doesn’t take enough notice, but most of the time that’s exactly how I feel, at least below the surface. That she points it out helps me be aware of it, and also of what bothers me.

5. She points out alternatives and encourages me to use them

Sometimes it’s really simple things, like “honey, when you feel like I’m not seeing you enough, it’s okay to just come and tell me, instead of getting up to silly things” and sometimes it’s harder things like finding ways that help me wait a little for her attention, instead of provoking it right away.

Putting those five things together to illustrate them with an example:

Let’s say I start to kick mom’s leg under the table during dinner. I used to do that a lot. Halfway through dinner I’d start nudging her with my foot. Harder if she ignored it. Usually because she was talking with dad, who told her about his day and stuff like that, and I felt like all she cared about was him all of a sudden and wanted to bring myself back to her attention. So what did she do? She never expelled me from the table for it and didn’t get angry (#1 – allowing attention-seeking behavior). Instead she paused her conversation to deal with me (#2 & 3 – understanding and meeting unmet needs). She asked me what’s up and why do I nudge her? Am I annoyed she’s not talking with me? Am I afraid she doesn’t see me anymore? Am I jealous dad is getting her attention? Tells me I don’t need to be afraid, she still very much knows I’m here and need her, too. (#4 – awareness of motives and reassurance) Asks how about I move my chair next to hers and I get her free hand while she finishes dinner and hearing about dad’s day? How about instead of nudging her, I wait for a good moment and a pause in the conversation to ask her if I can move my chair and all that? (#5 – encouraging alternatives)

That’s how attention-seeking behavior gets dealt with at home, and I like it. Okay, the part about pointing motives out and admitting to them not so much, but I guess it’s part of overcoming the unhealthy ways. For us it’s working.

Why my mom is a “good enough” parent, and why my mother wasn’t

I happened across this thesis yesterday and although I only skimmed it, I found something interesting about how parents are supposed to be “good enough” parents. So I asked mom and she said that’s a concept coined by a psychologist named Winnicott and it means that parents don’t need to be perfect, never making mistakes, but that they need to be “good enough” in order for the child do develop in a healthy way.

I thought that was interesting and decided I want to compare the parenting my birth mother did and the parenting my mom now does and see what I get. I’ll write my take on my mother’s behavior in blue and my take on my mom’s behavior in purple.

So trusting the thesis being a good enough parent requires parents to:

  • To teach and guide

my mother – teaching and guiding, I don’t know if that applies to her at all. Does it count if you are taught something by learning to fear the consequences if you don’t do it? The only thing she deliberately taught me was that everyone who didn’t take advantage of someone else when given the chance to get away with it was stupid.

my mom – she takes lots of time to teach me things. Perfectly ordinary things, like how to attend to my personal care, how to use a washing machine or how to cook something, but also things like how come I tick the way I do, how to make sense of my own behavior, that of others and everything. And she does it over and over again, even when it’s the same thing she showed or explained to me ten times already.

  • To instill morals, values, beliefs, ethics

my mother – she instilled the belief that you’re dumb if you don’t cheat the system, take advantage of people or cut them bad deals or lie when you can get away with it. And that it’s okay to take your anger out on others.

my mom – it used to annoy me how ethical she is. If she gets her change and the cashier gave her too much, she always alerts them. She’s all about treating people well and being honest and all that. I used to not get it. Why put myself at a disadvantage when the other won’t even notice? For quite a long time I accused her of only doing it to hone a holier-than-thou attitude, so she can feel morally superior. But I was wrong. Especially lately I got to realize that she does it because it feels good to treat others well, because it makes it easier to feel good about yourself and… hm… I guess because it’s the right thing to do. Sounds weird coming out of my mouth, but go figure, now I actually think so.

  • To discipline

my mother – her idea of discipline were threats and punishment in any shade you think of. I was mortally afraid of irritating her and provoking anger, so I was probably very well behaved, but not out of anything but terror.

my mom – I can’t recall a single event where she punished me, but at the same time she attaches great importance to discipline. If we make agreements, she expects I observe them. And if I don’t, she will follow up on it, will try to figure out how come I didn’t and what I need in order to have an easier time observing the rules the next time around. It’s very important to her. It’s only the minor rules that she lets slip sometimes, stuff like not having candy before dinner.

  • To set limits

my mother – she was setting limits alright. Lots of random limits. Whatever she said was a new rule or a limit. It was kind of confusing because whatever angered her was overstepping a limit, and what she demanded changed depending on her mood, so I was always on guard about it. Stuff that was okay to do yesterday, that she even asked of me, I would often get punished for doing the day after.

my mom – she is also setting limits alright. But they don’t change and most of them make sense, because she takes time to explain them to me, so we’re usually in some sort of agreement over the rules. But yeah, I live with lots of rules and limits. I don’t have many of the liberties other people my age have, but then, I don’t have the emotional or social skills most other people my age have either. So it’s kind of okay, because the rules and limits keep me safe. I guess that’s what it’s all about.  

  • To follow through

my mother – she was actually fairly predictable in the negative regard. If she said I was gonna pay for something, I was gonna pay. In the positive regard, not so much. If she had a good moment, she would sometimes promise me something, like that she was going to get me something from the store, but she almost always forgot about ever having said something like this, or laughed at my disappointment, saying she’d only been kidding me and how stupid was I to have believed I’d be getting something. Most embarrassing memories.

my mom – I have yet to see her not follow through with something. She doesn’t make promises she can’t keep and she doesn’t ever forget any single thing she said. She must have an elephant’s memory or something. It’s me who forgets stuff, but never her. So yeah, whatever she says, she will follow through with it, and if she does change her mind about something, she always explains to me why and makes sure I’m gonna be okay with it. Crazy, but that’s her.

  • To listen

my mother – she didn’t think I had to say anything worth listening to. “You shut up” was her standard response, even when later it was “why didn’t you fucking tell me?!” when I would have actually had something important to say. So no, she didn’t listen very well.

my mom – yeah, she listens. Even to stuff I don’t say or don’t want her to hear. She even keeps on listening when I run off at the mouth and swamp her in verbal diarrhea. She alerts me to my nonsensical nonstop talking and tries to get me back on a more normal track, but even so she listens, if sometimes with a pained smile.

  • To protect and to keep children safe

my mother – she didn’t protect me any. Not from my step-fathers abuse, not from anything. She was threatening and dangerous herself.

my mom – yes, she protects me. She enforces rules that protect me. She knows many of my triggers and takes them into consideration when we plan something. She even doesn’t allow other people to mess with me. She also makes sure I feel safe around the house. That she is a safe person, my safe person, is probably the most important thing about her. I feel safe when she’s there.

  • To help the children internalize skills such as trust

my mother – not at all, the only thing I learned from her was to trust nobody and nothing

my mom – we’re working on trust every single day. We discuss it, she makes a point of being trustworthy and she encourages me to trust others and helps me figure out what makes people or situations trustworthy and what doesn’t. So while I’m still nowhere near having internalized it yet, I hope I’m getting there.

  • To help children feel safe by instilling self-confidence and use of adults

my mother – the only thing she instilled was self-hate, low self-esteem and a belief that adults are dangerous and other people are out to get you anyway

my mom – she tries her best to improve my self-confidence by showing me how to be successful at doing things and by encouraging me to try out things and calling to my attention the things I am good at. And with the safety, I already wrote about that. I use her to feel safe a lot.

  • To provide unconditional love

my mother – she didn’t know what love was, much less unconditional love, unless maybe for my stepfather. She loved him like he was the best person ever, whatever weird reason for. But other than that resentment and hate was her thing, not love.

my mom – I almost don’t dare write it out, so as not to jinx it, but I think she does love me unconditionally. Of course she disapproves of it when I behave in a bad way, but she still loves me. I don’t always feel it – no, actually, I often don’t feel it, because I can’t believe it – but she says she does, and acts like she does and I’d like to think that she does. I feel a little bit safe enough to believe it, too. Sometimes.

  • To provide consistency, predictability, reliability

my mother – no consistency, predictability and reliability at all, except for negative stuff. That always came.

my mom – very consistent, predictable and reliable, even when I try my best to force her into giving it up at times

  • To be aware of and open to what the child needs

my mother – she was only aware of herself and what she needed

my mom – she’s often aware of what I need before I even know that I need anything. She talks about my needs and taking them seriously and giving me what I need all the time, too. Way more than I wish she did, sometimes, but that’s the side of me talking that wishes I didn’t have any needs at all. So it’s good she does it.

  • To provide the basic needs

my mother – she used food, clothing, warmth and shelter as things to manipulate and punish me with. Letting me stand outside in the cold, not giving me food etc. were her ideas of “fun” sometimes.

my mom – she provides for all basic needs. There’s always food, she makes sure I eat enough, she makes sure I wear appropriate clothes that keep me warm and all that.

  • To pass on traditions, culture, prayer

my mother – I don’t know if she even had anything she could have passed on

my mom – yeah, she passes on those things a lot. Traditions around holidays or birthdays are what comes to my mind the most. I have big issues with holidays and birthdays, but somehow as her and my family’s traditions become familiar and “traditional” (as in having a history with them I can look back on) it gets a little easier.

  • To teach about issues such as sexuality, oppression, etc.

my mother – she didn’t speak about those things. Not that I can recall.

my mom – we talk about those things when I can do so in a healthy, safe way. She made sure I know the facts about sexuality, for example, which I must admit I was not very familiar with, other than how having sex works.

  • To develop a secure attachment

my mother – she was not someone anyone could have a secure attachment to. She didn’t want me to attach to her either. She wanted me as far away from her as possible

my mom – she is someone to securely attach to, but I struggle a lot with those relationship issues. So working on those is probably what we do a lot of the time that we spend together, and I can see that she spends a lot of energy on making sure that we’re emotionally in touch and that I feel safe in our relationship. Relationship trouble always takes priority over other things.

  • To model healthy problem solving and feeling management techniques

my mother – she modeled how to drown problems in alcohol, but hey, too bad, they know how to swim, which of course I only realized after I had started drinking, too. Drinking, manipulation of others and violence were about the only problem solving and feeling management techniques I learned from her.

my mom – yes, she models healthy emotional skills and all that. And when she makes mistakes, she says so and apologizes and I think that she’s able to model all those healthy skills is what makes her a safe person to be around. I know I can be unstable and put an emotional burden on her and act out and all that, because she knows how to handle it. She doesn’t lose her cool and doesn’t fall apart over it, making it safe for me to put my mess in her face, plus I can see how she handles it, which I learn from.

Whew, I think that was the longest post I wrote so far. I don’t know if it’s even meaningful to anyone but me, but in case it may help someone else to consider those categories, I’ll post it. 🙂 It helps me to remind myself of those things. It helps me to realize why it’s okay and a healthy thing to love my mom and to still need her so much. And it helps me to realize that maybe it’s not all my own fault that I am so messed up, but that maybe my mom was just not good enough and caused a lot of the crap, too. And it helps to realize that the things that my mom now does, and that I sometimes feel are restrictive and all that, that she does those for a good reason and that it can help me get better, because that’s just the kind of things a good enough parent does.

“But you are such a pretty girl!” – – – “Why, thanks for the guilt trip”

Today when I woke up, what was on my mind were the words of one of my former therapists. I had just turned twenty, if I recall correctly, and was in the same glum mood my birthdays always bring about, so I spent the therapy session looking out of the window, mute, ignoring my therapist’s attempts to help me the best I could. I felt ‘what’s the use anyway?!’ about everything.

So after the session was over and I was on my way out, the therapist took me by the arm to stop me and shook her head while looking me in the eye. Then she said something like ‘I really wish I knew why you don’t grasp that chance you’re getting here’. In the sullen mood I was in I just shrugged and mumbled something about ‘what’s the use’, to which she shook her head again and said: “But you’re such a pretty girl!”.

I remember that at the time I was confused more than anything, because a) I don’t think of myself as pretty at all, and b) even if I was, what have looks to do with therapy?! Not knowing what to make of that statement I tried to do what I did with the rest I learned in therapy – forget it. But I couldn’t. The sentence kept coming back to me later that day, and the following day, and the following week and month and years. Crisp as if she’d said it only yesterday, I have ever since heard her voice in my head saying it over and over again.

“But you are such a pretty girl!”

It was probably meant to be… what… encouraging? Uplifting? Well, shit, I don’t really know what way she even meant it. But I know what her statement did.

I started to feel guilty. People consider me pretty, so I ought to be better. I shouldn’t be feeling so low, after all I’m “pretty”. Whatever “pretty” is, pretty people are obviously not supposed to be feeling shitty. I’m not feeling pretty, but people think I am, so I should be living up to that expectation. Should I be feeling pretty, too? Am I ungrateful for not feeling pretty? I must be ungrateful! Ungrateful and repulsive, because here I am feeling afwul and despicable, despite being so “pretty”.

People seem to believe that physical looks are like some special gift – and in a way I see where they come from, after all everyone has been given a face and you can’t do much about the way you look, unless you pay lotsa bucks to some plastic surgeon. So you could probably say that physical looks are a “gift”. But hey, most people look perfectly fine, not disfigured or anything, and entirely okay to look at, so what’s the big deal? Why that statement? Why the implication that someone who’s nice to look at, should not be neglecting herself so? Would it be more okay to do that if people considered me ugly?! Would my therapist have said “yeah, well, just go on feeling crappy because you’re ugly to look at anyway”?!

Looking back, I think that after I had heard that comment I got a lot worse than before. I stopped putting effort into looking nice. I didn’t wash my hair often and was probably not smelling good because I dodged showering whenever I could get away with it. I started using black eye liner and lipstick and nail polish. I didn’t care if my clothes were dirty. I tried my best to not look pretty, just to get rid of the guilty feeling.

I got better about it after I met my family and moved in with them. Mom insists on hygiene, I get new clothes if I want or need them, my clothes land in the washing machine when they’re dirty, and I kind of started to want to look pretty so they would like looking at me. (With frequent lapses to the opposite, but altogether I do want to look nice now.) But with it the worrying guilty feeling came back, making me feel like I shouldn’t be having a mental disorder, shouldn’t be struggling so much when, after all, I’m “pretty”.

Inside of myself I think ones outer appearance does not really say much about what that person looks like on the inside. I sure don’t feel pretty, but more like the way I look is some curse. Who knows, maybe if I had been a really ugly child, maybe my stepfather wouldn’t have wanted to abuse me then. Maybe he would have been repulsed, left me alone and put his dick elsewhere. Maybe my mother wouldn’t have felt threatened and would have thought “gee, she’s ugly, but at least she can be useful around the house” or something. I don’t know. And maybe if I was ugly, it would not be so darn easy to find some willing moron who doesn’t hesitate to let his pants down to fuck me. Maybe I’d be way better off now if I’d been looking less appealing. But even with those thoughts on my mind, I can’t really shake the guilt off.

So thanks a lot, therapist M, for the ongoing guilt trip. What a stupid thing to say. I wish people were less focused on looks.

Boredom and BPD – or: Borderline brain doesn’t agree with ‘normal’

I’m having a good day today. No misunderstandings. No hurt feelings. No arguments. Everything has been smooth sailing so far. Great, eh?

Guess so. After all, it’s what I strive for. Feeling normal. Not intensely good. Not incredibly low. Just normal. Perfect, right?!

NO! At least not really.

While I’m glad I’m not having an emotional rollercoaster ride today, I’m totally and utterly bored. In bold capital letters. B-O-R-E-D. It’s gnawing at me while I’m hanging around, not finding satisfaction in anything I do. It’s like being stuck in a deadening pit of unbearable nothingness.

Listening to music? – boring

Watching mom do housework? – boring

Helping with housework? – boring

Talking with mom? – boring

Playing the guitar? – yep, you guessed it: boring.

It feels like I’m about to drop dead from boredom or from gathering dust or something.

So I started bugging mom. “Do something with me! Something more fun than housework! No, playing a game is boring. Something else! No, I don’t want to go anywhere, I want to do something in the house. No, something else! Why aren’t you done with the stupid washing already?! How long can it take!? No, I don’t want to help so it goes faster. Geez, get ready, I’m so bored! Hey, look, I’m gonna eat laundry detergent!”

And seriously, I was this close to having some, only to make something happen, because of course mom wouldn’t just watch me eat laundry detergent. So while I wasn’t really planning on eating it, and wasn’t even feeling like I really wanted to, I would have only to make something exciting happen. Anything. Anything that doesn’t feel so unbearably boring.

So the wash waited as mom rolled her eyes, went for a playful wrestle for the detergent and while I was laughing (yay, finally something going on!) she declared if I wanted action, it would have to be something harmless, no absurd threat ploys with laundry detergent. We ended up playing ‘grab the thingy’ with a clothespin instead, which is a little rough and tumble game that consists of nothing more than trying not to let the other get their hands on the whatever it is and taking turns when the other was successful. It’s silly, but fun to play, and kind of intense when mom and I play, and it usually ends in laughter. So that was good. Not boring.

Thereafter mom addressed the boredom itself. I asked her why I can’t just enjoy a good day, and feel so awfully bored instead. She suggested it might be because my brain is not accustomed to average levels of excitement and feels like something is wrong if it is underwhelmed. After all my brain was exposed to very high levels of arousal for prolonged periods of time during my childhood. Threatening situations, stressful situations, painful situations and a need to be permanently alert. It has adjusted to those high levels of arousal, by releasing chemicals to match that intensity. It has not, however, learned how to produce dopamine (a joy and excitement chemical) in response to normal levels of excitement. So it doesn’t recognize normal things as good enough to trigger a response, because it’s still waiting for some high level of arousal happening. Hence boredom when there’s not.

But she also said the good thing about brains is that they can adapt to new situations. It’s a slow process, because one can’t just alter the natural brain chemistry over night, but she said it’s going to happen. So I’m hoping it will happen. If only patience was my more of a friend. At least interpersonal excitement, like getting intense attention through a little rough-and-tumble game, does trigger a happy brain response. I guess that’s something, after all this kind of excitement is usually available. As for the rest, time is probably my ally. Sigh. What do you guys do if you feel unbearably bored?

Things that make me feel safe & loved

Since feeling safe and loved is something I struggle with a lot, I thought maybe it would be good to make a list of things that help those feelings along. To get some clarity, and maybe to actively seek out those things when I run low in a way that’s a little more constructive than becoming a nuisance to those around me.

So let’s see.

Things that make me feel safe:

  • Knowing someone is home with me.
  • Being in the same room with mom or dad.
  • Having the lights on at night.
  • That mom and dad don’t yell and only rarely raise their voices.
  • Having the same predictable routines every day.
  • That my mom keeps an eye on what I do and where I am. (Okay, it’s annoying, too, especially when I’m up to no good, but then, it’s kind of the point that she notices when I drift south before I’m all the way there, even when I hate it at the time.)
  • That mom takes my hand when we’re out and about on the streets, so I can relax and don’t need to stress about getting lost, and neither about losing face by actively taking her hand (yes, life is complicated).
  • Knowing in advance what’s planned for the day.
  • Getting things explained to me, so I don’t feel left out or stupid for not knowing something.
  • Getting included.
  • Mom and dad staying calm when I’m upset.
  • That we talk about things in the family.

So far so good. I have a feeling that those were the easier ones. The ‘love’ part is more difficult because I have an even harder time feeling loved than feeling safe, and I also feel more embarrassed about the things that make me feel loved. But I guess the point of this post is to try and figure it out and be honest about it, so here goes.

Things that make me feel loved:

  •  Sitting on mom’s lap. Yes, physically I’m kind of too big to be sitting on her lap, but emotionally there’s not a single thing in the world that compares to it. I’m lucky I’m small and light, but I guess I’d like it just as much if I were tall and big. (Poor mom, though, in that case.) It feels loving and safe and like she must really love me if she allows me on her lap. After all you don’t let people be that close who you don’t really like that much, right?!
  • Small things like mom and dad never leaving the house and waiting for me outside, even if I dilly-dally and they are long ready to go. I’d probably be way faster if they waited outside, because I hate being left behind, but they always wait and only leave the house when I’m with them.
  • That they see through my relationship tests and use them for good stuff. I often construct situations that invite them to give me negative relationship messages, to punish me or to discipline me. I am annoying on purpose to see what it takes to make them snap and lose it and show their “true face”. But instead of snapping or losing it, they acknowledge that I’m stressed, make me aware that I’m stressed and try their best to help me figure out what I need to feel safe in our relationship again. That they do that instead of taking the easy way, makes me feel like they care about me and love me.
  • That my mom pays attention to what I do, even when it’s nothing important, and either smiles or says something to let me know how she feels about what I do. I often do things just to see if she will notice, and nine out of ten times she does. That makes me feel like I’m important to her and like she loves me enough to care.

Those are only four things, and I’m sure there must be more, but I have a really hard time becoming aware of those things. I’m actually pleased I made it to four, plus explanations. 😉

Being Oversensitive and BPD – making it from survival skill to safety

One of the things that probably make me hard to be around is that I take notice of countless small things, read meaning into them, draw (hasty and often unjustified) conclusions, become emotional and act upon it.

Small example: Yesterday I watched mom set the table for our weekend family breakfast and she set my place last. Everyone’s place was set and my placemat was still empty. Now most people would probably not even notice, but I do and when I notice I’m sure it means something. Mom likes everyone else better than me. She sets my place last because I’m the least important to her. Or she forgot about me, like I’m not even part of the family. She’d never say it, but that’s her way of showing me. The conclusion is hasty and full of flawed thinking, but when those thoughts flash through my mind, it’s hard to reason with them. So I felt hurt and rejected and like I’d never in a million years want to have breakfast with any of them again. Ever.

When I rushed out of the kitchen my mom could tell which way the wind was blowing, came after me and after taking some verbal abuse about what a mean bitch she is, she asks what upset me so. I cuss something about why doesn’t she just fucking say she hates me, cause I’m not stupid and can tell what she means by leaving my place at the table empty. So mom took my hand and took me back into the kitchen where she opened the dishwasher that was still swooshing its last round. When the cloud of steam had drifted away, she pulled a wet breakfast plate and mug from the rack and showed it to me and said she thought she’d set those for me. They’re my favorite dishes, because they’re cute with dots and hearts and a little scrawly skull on them, and she got them for me when I saw them at a shop one day and couldn’t tear my eyes away from them. She thought she’d wait for my favorite plate and all.

So my mom was being extra considerate, but I get it the wrong way and get upset like some nasty crazy person. I felt awfully sorry and ready to go punish myself for being so mean to my mom who I love so much and who was only being nice. But mom knows how I tick and doesn’t let go of me in this situation, so while the dishwasher finishes, we sit down and talk about my being so sensitive instead.

Or rather mom talked, because I felt ashamed and like the most awful person ever which turned me mute, until her words helped me feel better.

It’s probably not the first time she told me, but I think this time I got what she meant. She spoke about how it’s been sensible for me to be so sensitive. How growing up in a family where life was spiked with truly threatening behavior it was a survival skill to tell the meaning of small changes, so I could get myself out of harm’s way, if at all possible. A minor sign could be the only advance warning I got, so I had to learn to take them seriously. In general, my mother and step-father never really said out loud what they wanted, but just assumed I was able to read their minds and act accordingly, with punishment waiting if I did not, so it WAS an important skill for me to monitor the smallest things and read their meaning. And because it was such an critical skill for keeping myself safe, my brain has a hard time letting go of it, even when it’s not necessary anymore. When there is no real danger to be detected, my brain is not convinced and sees threatening signs anyway.

My mom told me before, but I think I wasn’t ready to really accept that being so sensitive is not just me being crazy or a terrible person, but me having learned a survival skill that was so important that it became automatic. I don’t really know why, but yesterday it sank in. At least for now. I felt better after we had talked, could accept some cuddles and that mom finally set the cute plate and mug for me when the dishwasher was done. I even had breakfast without struggling to eat, so I must have really felt okay and not like I should get punished anymore.

It’s really exhausting to be so oversensitive. After all, I don’t just notice something with my rational mind, but my emotions immediately flare up. But I hope that maybe being aware that it’s my brain going into survival overdrive can help me distance myself from the emotions and from acting on them a little. After all, I’m not with my first family anymore. Maybe being aware that the hypersensitivity is a survival skill that belongs with them, not with my family now will help me with not jumping to conclusions so quickly, hopefully making things less exhausting in the long run. After all it’s not nice to have had a load of emotional drama already by the time I have breakfast.

I’ll see how it goes. For now it’s good to know that hypersensitivity isn’t me being awful, but an automatic response that comes from an unsafe upbringing. That it’s not something that goes away through punishment (logically thinking, it would even get reinforced with punishment), but through calming down and helping my brain feel safe, so it goes out of survival mode. Hm, and I guess that may even be a small part of the self-love that I wrote about yesterday. Not beating myself up for being oversensitive, but realizing it’s simply a skill that’s not necessary anymore, but got activated out of instinct or habit or something, so I can let go of it and shape my brain some new responses instead. I could sure use those!

Self Love in the context of BPD and PTSD

One of the things I struggle a lot with is self love. Or self-esteem. Different word, same concept: Finding myself lovable, worthy of stuff, important, special, all those things. And while self love is among the things that are hard to measure, because you can’t hold a measuring tape up to them, I’m pretty sure I’ve got very little of it.


Signs of low self-esteem are, according to Wikipedia:

  • Heavy self-criticism and dissatisfaction
  • Hypersensitivity to criticism with resentment against critics and feelings of being attacked
  • Chronic indecision and an exaggerated fear of mistakes
  • Excessive will to please and unwillingness to displease any petitioner
  • Perfectionism, which can lead to frustration when perfection is not achieved
  • Neurotic guilt, dwelling on and exaggerating the magnitude of past mistakes
  • Floating hostility and general defensiveness and irritability without any proximate cause
  • Pessimism and a general negative outlook
  • Envy, invidiousness, or general resentment


Those describe me very well. I criticize myself for anything and everything and I hear criticism even when people say innocent things, which makes me feel low and like I need to defend myself. I’m indecisive about even the smallest things. What do I want to wear? What do I want to do? Pink nail polish or black? Do I publish this post or is it silly? I want others to approve of everything first. My mom is probably sick and tired of saying “Lola, it’s fine”, but I need to hear it anyway. I’m also very perfectionist about everything I do and nothing is ever good enough. For example spelling mistakes. I’m not a very good speller, but  hate to have spelling mistakes in my posts and rather write everything in word with the spellchecker and look things up, because I’m afraid to make mistakes and look stupid. And when I can’t get things perfect, I often get so frustrated that I completely destroy whatever it was I was doing. Gosh, and neurotic guilt sounds mentally sick in and of itself. But I do dwell on how terrible past mistakes were and beat me up a lot over them, so I suppose it’s alright the word makes me sound like a sick person. Ask my mom about hostility. It flares up easily at any wrong move someone makes, at anything that seems vaguely accusing or criticizing. The only thing I’ve gotten a bit better with is the pessimism. But the envy, that’s me again. I’m a jealous and envious person and even when I feel like I deserve nothing good, I feel upset and like everyone hates me if others have it better, or have something better than what I do. That’s so twisted.


Anyway, so I suppose the opposites of the signs of low self-esteem would be signs of good self esteem or self love:

  • Being gentle and forgiving with mistakes and appreciating successes even when they’re small
  • Being able to deal with criticism without feeling personally attacked
  • Being able to make decisions and feeling okay with them even when there’s no absolute security that they are good decisions
  • Being able to please someone because you want to, not because you feel like you must please everyone
  • Being composed about not being perfect and not expecting perfection, but being able to tell when something is good enough instead
  • Being able to forgive past mistakes
  • Benignity in dealing with others and giving them the benefit of the doubt when things are unclear
  • Optimism and a positive outlook
  • Being happy for others when they have nice things or get attention from someone who is important for me, too.


Looks like the recommendations on how to get there would be rather simple. “Be gentle and forgiving with yourself.” “Don’t take criticism personally and put it in perspective.” “Decide what you want and if it doesn’t harm anyone else, then go with it.” . . .

I think my problem is that I can’t just do that. It’s probably irrational, but if someone told me to do that, I’d probably get defensive and my thinking would be along the lines of: “You do it! I need you to treat me like this! Typical you shirk away from doing it yourself, shoving the fucking mess and responsibility to me instead! That’s how much you love me! I knew it! You hate me! I hate you! I hate myself! I hate my life! I want to die!”

Okay, I’m being a bit dramatic, but I’d probably add the ‘I want to die’ anyway, because it sounds serious and like I mean it, because I DO mean it that much, even when I’m not feeling suicidal.

I think the problem about many things is that I don’t want to assume responsibility because that would feel insulting and hurtful, because inside I feel like someone else should! When I see F for therapy, we often talk about that. It’s no secret my mother took bad care of me. She didn’t accept her responsibility. And I think way deep inside, that still hurts so badly that I turn into a sulky little kid crossing her arms, demanding “no, YOU do it, like it would have been your job all along” and would rather hate myself to death than to do someone else’s job of loving me for them. For some weird reason that would feel like admitting defeat. Crazy much, eh?!

So what do I make of self love then? Get over my feelings? I’ll probably have to, somehow. Well, and it helps that I got a mom who loves me first now. Even when I hate her for it on some days, because loving hurts too, you know. But it still makes it easier for me to be a little more accepting of myself, too.

But then, I wonder, what do other people with BPD and/or PTSD do who don’t have anyone to properly love them first? Surely they must manage, too, somehow? In a healthy, not in a “fuck you all, I’m the greatest” way! People do manage that, right?!

But if you ask me how . . . my brain just might explode trying to figure it out, it’s so clueless.

Depressive Repercussions

Maybe it is the aftermath of yesterday’s painting and the realization that came with it, maybe it’s just coincidence, but however way I look at it, today sucks. I feel depressed and gloomy and like all energy has drained from me.

Terrible that one day I realize what I ought to be doing, and the next day I feel paralyzed inside, like it’s too much to even get dressed. I wonder if there’s some message my psyche has hidden in that. Does it need me to go slow so it can catch up? Or is it a not-so-subtle message that it balks at the idea of exploring the basement and would rather immobilize me for good than go there?

I don’t know. I can’t tell. It’s one of the zombie days where I can’t feel much or tell much. Depressed indifference. The day’s not even half over and already it feels like a wasted one. I wish I could press the rewind button, undo my life and start over. Under more favorable terms. Maybe if I’m real good and write Santa that this is the one thing I want for Christmas?

But since Christmas is still almost two months away, I got to find some other solution. For now I’ll try to stay active somehow. Even when it’s hard. Passivity is an awesome accelerant for depression, after all. Maybe mom needs help around the house. Maybe listening to some music will help. Or maybe I should paint another picture. Of rainbows, flowers with smilie faces and butterflies, this time.

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